Review by Gruel
"I was just like you, more proud than you could know."
It took six long years, but the sequel to 2000's award winning PC adventure game, The Longest Journey (TLJ) is finally available by the name of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. While it may not deliver anything groundbreaking in terms of gameplay, it achieves the primary goal of the adventure genre: to tell an immersive and gripping story.
While the original TLJ was a traditional point-and-click, the developers at Funcom are classifying Dreamfall as a modern day adventure game that last year's Indigo Prophecy helped define.
Dreamfall takes place 10 years after the events of its predecessor and is set a hair over 200 years in the future. TLJ's lead heroine April Ryan is back, but she is only playable for a relatively minor part of the game, along with another hero named Kian who serves for the Azadi Empire. Both of these characters belong to a parallel universe known as Arcadia. For roughly two-thirds of the game you play as Zoë Castillo, a young woman who recently dropped out of college and is questioning her goals in life until one day she gets mixed up in a conspiracy that changes her life and takes her to new worlds and mysterious places.
For the record, I never played TLJ but as I played through Dreamfall it didn't feel absolutely necessary, especially since the manual does a decent job setting up the basic info for what I missed in the first game. However, there were several moments where the sequel alluded to events and characters from TLJ that I had no idea about, and me feel I was missing out on some special moments I would have perceived better if I played through TLJ With that said you might want to hunt down and play through TLJ before Dreamfall if you want to get the absolute most out of the story.
Dreamfall showcases some excellent storytelling. There was a little bit more dialogue than I'm used to, but it never seemed to drag. On the contrary, it had my attention until the very end. One thing I want to give props to in the story is that this could have easily been a T-rated game, but there is some strong language apparent throughout the story which primarily results in the M-rating. However, unlike damn near all those urban games that use profanity for the hell of it, this time it's used in a convincing and smart matter.
Expect to engage in many conversations in Dreamfall. You guide most conversations by choosing the questions, and in some cases this slightly alters the story. However, the dialogue isn't as choice-driven as Indigo Prophecy, because for about 4 out of 5 times your choices result in the same responses/consequences.
Now Dreamfall wouldn't be an adventure game if it didn't have a fair share of puzzles. There are a few instances where Zoë must hack locks with her cell phone (known simply as a mobile in this game). This is a simple mini-game where you have to match the corresponding symbols from a grid within a time limit. Most other puzzles are basic trial and error patterns to get by certain passageways and whatnot. With the exception of a couple of challenging stealth situations in the game, Dreamfall holds your hand in most of these puzzles, even going as far as to drop hints to help you out in nearly every ordeal.
One would think if the developers who are famous for making Anarchy Online were to add a fighting engine to a game they would at least make it half-decent, but that is not the case here. The fighting in Dreamfall is downright embarrassing. It seems Funcom threw this in as merely an afterthought. Characters can only perform light and heavy attacks, and I was shocked at how clunky and unresponsive the controls were for just those functions. Lucky for us, this is an adventure game and there are only a handful of fighting sequences to endure.
Dreamfall makes up for its lousy fighting engine with some stunning visuals. The level design is what takes the cake here. Whether it is the regular world or the luscious fantasy scenery in the parallel universe of Arcadia, the developers did a damn good job at visually crafting all the environments. I was surprised by the noticeable presence of jaggies and some dated looking textures on some of the characters, but overall a pretty good job in setting the tone for the story. Dreamfall delivers a superb audio experience with brilliantly fitting background music, and some of the best voice acting I have ever heard in a game. Seriously, the voice acting was so good (and not just the main characters but for damn near all the no-name guards and villagers), it made the story even more enjoyable.
For all you adventure game fans, I can wholeheartedly recommend Dreamfall. Sure it has a few faults like a lousy fighting mechanic and not being all that challenging, but it more than makes up for that by delivering an engaging story that not a lot of other games can match. So if you loved the original or are a fan of modern adventure games like Indigo Prophecy, then you can't go wrong with Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/24/06
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